This is a repost from my old blog. I wrote it probably four years ago, but it’s still one of my favorites. . . and still very true.
I get crap all of the time because I’m great at doling out but not so good at asking for or accepting help. Like lots of other things about me that aren’t so great, this trait is mostly reactionary. This one comes mostly from the opening of pickle jars.
Until I was about 19, our Thanksgivings were usually at Grandma’s place. Between her, my mom, and at least six aunts, we had a serious spread: veggie and lunchmeat snack trays and chips and dip to start, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, at least two different kinds of stuffing, marinated salad, fruit salad, homemade rolls, green beans, and at least four different homemade pies. And there was always enough for everyone to take home leftovers in Cool Whip containers.
It wasn’t until I was 10 or so that I realized the ridiculous mechanics of the Thanksgiving dinner. All of the women in the family spent all morning cooking. All of the men sat around watching football, cursing their fool heads off, and drinking too much Coors. Gendered family bonding? Maybe. . . but it gets worse. When it was time to eat, it was the women’s job to go round up all of the men so that they could fix their plates first. And if the guys sat around for forty-five minutes bullshitting and yelling at the TV, then the food waited for them untouched. And once everyone else had everything they needed and the babies had all been fed, the women finally ate. . . usually interrupted by requests for another beer or by misbehaving kids (even though the daddies were back to watching football). The final straw that turned me “into one of them feminists” was that when all of the feasting was over, the women put all of the food away and cleaned everything up. Ummm. . . huh?!
The ONLY time the guys were called on was when one of the women couldn’t get a jar open. One of the kids, usually it was me, was called into the kitchen and sent on a special mission: get one of the uncles to open the jar. In my 10-year-old version of reality, then, there were two types of people in the world: those who opened jars and ate first, and those who cooked and cleaned for the jar openers.
I decided to become a jar opener.
I learned lots of tricks to getting stubborn jars open. When the men were too busy finding new grammatical uses for the “f” word to come eat when beckoned, I served myself. I couldn’t convince any of the cooks that they should eat then, too, but I ate. The few times when the men made it in after the first dinner call, I was in line around the table with them. Of course, I also helped clean up because I wasn’t an inconsiderate ass, but still. . . I ate with the jar openers.
Somehow, that translated into a screwy belief that needing and accepting help is weakness. Again. . . ummm. . . huh?!
This weekend, my Thanksgiving weekend with my mom and stepdad, I got over it. Sort of. I drove to O-H——I-O (goofy Buckeye fans) with a relatively empty—though garbage- and dog-hair-filled—car. I came back with an incredibly clean car with a fresh oil change, new brake lights, and brand new wiper blades; a sweeeeeeeet set of dishes; a gorgeous, cobalt blue Kitchenaid mixer; refilled candle jars; a replacement digital camera; and a fully functional, fully in-tact, dissertation-ready laptop.
I may be able to open my own damned pickle jars, and I probably could have survived and finished my dissertation without a laptop, but now I don’t have to. And that makes me all sorts of happy. And lucky.